Part 1: Why You Should Have a Budget

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Budgeting Part 1

Cash flow management is especially important today as Americans are saving less and are further in debt than at any other time in our history. Let us explore why you should have a budget. The number of people that have and follow a budget is only about 33% of people today in the U.S.

Cash Flow Management Defined: Cash flow management is the management of income and expenses both current and forecast for the future. The old-fashioned name is budgeting, and if you spent more than you earned, it was called going broke. Now we call it negative cash flow.

You should have a budget if you…

  • Live paycheck-to-paycheck.
  • Borrow too much money, and have no disposable income after paying fixed expenses (like rent or mortgage) and buying food.
  • Are constantly stressed about money.
  • Are not making the necessary progress saving for retirement, college education and car replacements.
  • Have no money in savings for emergencies, and major car repairs are a crisis.
  • There is no money left over after paying bills.
  • You have no idea how much you can spend to eat out, for groceries, and on entertainment; you just spend what seems natural.
  • Answer Yes to more than one of the above!

Smart people manage their cash flow because they know they…

  • Have Limited Income: Virtually everyone has limited or fixed income. Without budgeting you are being controlled by your environment. If you have a plan, you are more in control of your money. Without a budget, you may not really know you are spending more money than you are earning.
  • Need Spending Limits: Knowing what your monthly expenses are projected to be and what they actually are will help you keep track of how much money you have left over for future goals and needs.
  • Have Unlimited Demands: There is an endless demand on your finances. Our commercial capitalistic society is constantly calling out for you to buy. If you have minor children, the demands are greatly increased by the things they want, the activities they are in, and the schools they attend.
  • Want Freedom, Not Bondage:  Budgeting seems to be restrictive to some people. The reality is that we have to make choices between what we want at the moment and our regular bills and goals for the future. However, there is freedom in knowing what your limits are. Many people find this liberating, because it creates opportunities to grow and mature.
  • Have Future Goals:  If you are sacrificing today, it helps to know what you are saving for in the future. By having an eFinPLAN financial plan, you will know what your goals are and for what you are saving.
  • Want to be More Aware of Where Money is Going:  If you do not have a budget, you may have no idea where your money is going. Knowing where you money is going will help you identify if you are spending too much money in specific areas.
  • Want Less Stress:  Spending without a plan and a budget increases your stress because you do not have a well thought out plan for paying your bills and you may spend more money for fun than you can afford. Planning and budgeting will give you the peace of mind that you are on the right track.

Summary: Only a small majority of people can live on no budget at all. A few people are able to control spending, and they spend very little each month. The majority of people need some kind of cash flow management system, or a budget to track their income and expenses. Knowing that you need and want a cash flow plan is the first step in the right direction toward designing a budget plan.

This is the 1st article of a 3-part series:

Part 5: Is Suze Orman Right: Can you do your own financial planning?

Suze Orman says: Do Your Own Financial Planning! “I think it’s imperative for you to do as much of the work as possible, rather than turning control over to someone else: your finances.” Ms. Orman and I agree on this. Is this really true, and what does this mean?

I think the biggest thing Suze Orman can be accredited with is her encouraging and empowering people, especially women, to take responsibility for their personal finances. Her advice and message isn’t particularly sophisticated; she doesn’t get into a lot of the minute financial details. But her positive motivation with basic financial wisdom helps people to become more engaged and make better decisions.

Suze definitely believes people can and must take control of their overall personal financial situation in the broad sense, and that includes knowing and making good decisions with its various parts, from insurance to 401(k), and from budgeting to debt elimination. We, she, and other financial personalities recommend this. However, in the professional context, can people be their own financial planners? My answer is, of course. Everyone is intelligent enough and capable of learning and doing their own planning.

What is a professional financial plan? I defined financial planning in a prior article, but to summarize, a financial plan is a written personal road map to financial goals. It covers virtually all areas of one’s finances. It is both an organized snapshot of where one is, and a plan to where one wants to be. A financial plan will cover virtually all areas, such as retirement, college education planning, investing, and more than 50 other areas.

Until recently, people could only obtain comprehensive financial plans from professionals. They either pay a fee or agree to be presented with a financial product that would pay the planner a commission. But now, companies like eFinPLAN can offer online financial planning, for a very low-cost, and with no product bias.

DIY: The advantages of do-it-yourself financial planning

  • Engages you in the process, which gives you a great sense of responsibility and the confidence of being ‘in-the-know’.
  • Forces you to organize your financial records and affairs.
  • Helps you become financially smart because you will learn much during the planning process as you see how various parts of the plan and your results are connected.
  • Gives you a better understanding of how to use trusted advisers so you can relate to them at a higher level.
  • Helps remove the intimidation factor of working with financial professionals and helps you detect when they may not be working in your best interests.

Implementation of a financial plan is the most important part of financial planning. This begins after you have input all of your financial information into the financial planning software application, and it produces a complete and personal planning report for you. You then use the report to help guide you in implementing the its steps, such as in the areas of insurance or retirement planning. You have a whole host of ways to go about acquiring products for your plan, including many options from online financial, tax and legal firms. You may choose to use local advisers or online ones, and they may try to provide second opinions. This can be helpful; so be open to this. However, by doing your own online financial plan, and acquiring all of the learning, education and engagement, you are much better equipped to process and judge what is presented to you.

In summary: Suze Orman is right, you can and should take control of your finances, and put yourself into the driver’s seat of your financial planning. You are smart, intelligent, and capable, and with the number of excellent web-based firms today, you can do a lot of it yourself, saving you time and money in the process.

This is the 5th and last article in a series about financial planning:

Part 4: When to Update Your Financial Plan

Web development concept: Gears and Update on chalkboard

Your Financial Plan

Certain life events can make significant changes to your overall finances and  can necessitate updating your financial plan. This list of life events is provided to alert you to circumstances that may affect your overall plan.

  1. Receiving a large amount of money. “Money is the world’s curse. May the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!” This sentiment was spoken by the Tevye character in Fiddler on the Roof. Most of us would like to receive a large sum of money whether through prize winnings, inheritance, or a nice bonus. If you do receive a large amount, we hope you will avoid the most common mistake of immediately buying something. Before you do anything else, consult your financial plan. Windfalls, when not handled correctly, can sometimes cause more problems than they solve. For instance, before spending any of it, consult your tax adviser regarding taxes that may be due.  Another common mistake is buying something that will require more money over time than the actual windfall. For instance, vacation property, boats, expensive cars, or other large expenses may have hidden expenses over time, such as maintenance, taxes, higher fuel costs, etc. A thorough review of your financial plan will help you determine the best use for your windfall whether you decide to reduce debt, increase your emergency savings retirement fund or college fund, or use it toward a well-thought-out large purchase. If you don’t have a financial plan, start an eFinPLAN financial plan today. Your eFinPLAN financial plan provides “what-if” scenarios so that you may see how your entire financial plan may change depending on how you use your windfall. We also highly recommend discussing your dreams and plans with your family. Don’t let this blessing create a division in your relationships.
  2. Incurring Large Expenses.  If you incur a large expense, don’t panic—plan instead. If this expense was planned, then update your financial plan accordingly. If the expense was unplanned, review and update your financial plan to see how this expense affects your overall plan.
  3. Buying or Selling Property or a Business. If you buy or sell any type of real estate, a business, or a valuable possession, be sure to consult your financial plan, as well as your legal and tax advisers. There may be a whole host of issues that your trusted advisers can help with not only to make the transaction more profitable but also to prevent financial, legal or tax problems.
  4. Acquiring or Paying Off Debt.  If you recently have assumed more debt, it is important that you adjust your financial plan so that you know how it may affect the other areas of your finances. If you have paid off debt and have extra money freed up, now is an excellent time to look at your financial plan’s implementation checklist to determine if there are items that you have not yet done, such as saving additional funds for your financial goals. If you do not have a financial plan, now is an excellent time to start one, so that you can adjust your finances for this new obligation or increased cash flow.
  5. Having a Child. If you are preparing for an upcoming baby or adopting a child, you also need to prepare for the adjustments this dramatic change brings to your finances. This is an excellent time to look at (or start) your financial plan.
  6. Changing your Marital Status.  Whether you are getting married or divorced, or you have become widowed, your financial plan will be greatly affected.
  7. Changing your Employment or Income.  If you have a change in employment, your income and benefits may change. You may also have money from retirement plans that you may want to roll over into an IRA. How will the changes affect your financial plan? The only way to know is to have one. If you already have a plan, update your plan with the new information. Your overall plan may only change slightly or it may change significantly, but by updating your plan, you will have the information you need in order to stay on track for your future goals.
  8. Changing Employee Benefits.  Whether you change employment or not, your employer-provided pension, retirement, life insurance, disability and health insurance may occasionally change. When these changes happen, input this new data into your financial plan.
  9. Receiving Updated Investment Information.  You should be receiving investment statements from all of your accounts each month and quarter. At least once a year, update your financial plan with the new account balance information. The investment results, new deposits, and withdrawals should be reflected in your financial plan.
  10. Buying or increasing your Life, Disability and Long-Term Care Insurance. 
  11. Your financial plan will indicate any gaps in coverage that you may have for your life, disability, and long-term care insurance. If you implement these changes with the help of your trusted insurance adviser, be sure that you update your financial plan to include these new policies.
  12. Drafting New Legacy Planning Documents.  If you have drafted new will, trust, or other legal documents, make sure that you make all the necessary changes to your beneficiary arrangements on all your accounts (life insurance, retirement, annuity, transfer-on-death accounts). If you draft more complex documents, the attorney may advise some of your property to have a change in ownership arrangement or type. Be sure to follow through on all ownership and beneficiary changes.
  13. Making Changes to Your Plan.  If you have a financial plan, you probably will have a checklist of action items. In addition, your plans, goals, objectives, and priorities may change. Make sure to update your plan and don’t forget to notify your trusted professional financial, investment, insurance, tax and legal advisers of the changes that pertain to them.

Summary:  Certain life events can significantly alter your financial plan. Make sure that you update and adjust your financial plan accordingly. If you have an online financial plan, you can easily make the changes anytime online.

This is the 4th article in a 5-part series about financial planning:

Part 3: Financial Plan Basics: Financial Planning Myths

myth and reality word cloudThere is a lot of misinformation about financial planning. Therefore, this article exposes some of the myths or hypes of planning. This information may be helpful for people to understand more about financial planning.

Financial Plans Should Not Be:

1: Product Purchase Centered:  Financial planning should never be based on the sale of a particular insurance or investment product. Financial planning should be unbiased and should be concerned only with the needs of the individual.

2: Unbalanced: Financial plans should be balanced.  They should not over-emphasize one area, such as investments, retirement, insurance, taxes or death planning.  Financial Planning should be holistic, addressing all the areas of planning and how they relate to and affect each other.

3: ‘Handled’ for the client: Clients should not turn over all finances to a planner to abdicate all of their decision making.  Financial planning should involve and engage the client.  Clients should not stand on the sideline, but they should participate actively in the process.  Ultimately, individuals are responsible for their decisions.

4: Not integrated: Financial plans can be focused on one particular area, such as cash flow planning and taxes. That is why you may hear accountants talking about financial planning. The same goes for insurance or investment professionals doing planning from an insurance or investment point of view. Comprehensive personal financial planning looks at almost every area of planning. In addition, the various parts, like insurance and estate plans, should not be planned in a vacuum, since almost almost all areas of planning are interconnected. Remember when you were young, and you played either ‘pick-up sticks’ or ‘barrel of monkeys.’ What made those games fun was the challenge to pick the pieces up in a connected way or so that the whole pile of sticks or monkeys weren’t scattered. Financial planning software is integrated, so that when you change some areas, others are affected.

This is the 3rd article in a 5-part series about financial planning:

 

Part 2: Personal Financial Planning, History, Process and Options

The ladder of success

Financial Planning Defined: The devising of a program for the allocation and management of finances and capital through budgeting, investment, etc. In other words, it is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances.

Financial Planning Trends:  Financial planning has been an emerging profession for about the last 30 years. Prior to that, financial planning  only served the ultra wealthy since they were the only ones with money to invest who could also afford a team of legal, tax and investment advisers. Since WWII, the demographics of our country have changed. People are living longer and they have extra income for things other than necessities. In previous generations, people lived hand to mouth either in cities or on the farm, earned and saved little, and died at younger ages than today. Today’s poor in America have statistically much more than previous generations had. In addition, the complexities of financial matters and the lack of financial education have created the need for financial planning assistance for every income level.

Financial planning as an industry really came into being, at least in the eyes of the consumer, in the 1980’s and 90’s. Financial planning rode the wave of the biggest and longest bull stock market of all time. A contributing factor to the explosive growth of this industry hinged on the fact that baby boomers reached their peak earning years. Personal computers had a huge impact; until the late 1980′s they didn’t exist. Planners were much better able to run countless complex reports to generate financial plans.

One reason that the financial planning industry will continue to change is that the largest transfer of wealth ever seen is due to occur over the next 30 years. It is estimated to be in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Today many high-net-worth individuals are using Fee-only and Fee-based financial planners. Unfortunately, the wealthy are the only ones who can afford their fees. However, to bring financial planning to the masses, eFinPLAN was introduced in 2007.

An Outline of Comprehensive Financial Planning.The areas covered in financial plans for the wealthy have not changed much: Table 1 is an outline that most financial planners follow. Table 2 represents additional areas covered by only a few planning systems, so be sure not to miss them too.

TABLE 1

1.   Present Financial Condition

  •  Net Worth
  •  Data Confirmation
  •  Cash Flow
  •  Debt
  •  Taxes

2.   Future Goals

  •  Retirement
  •  College Education
  •  Other Goals
  •  Wills
  •  End-of-life Issues
  •  Trusts

3.   Investment Planning

  •  Risk Assessment
  •  Asset Allocation Worksheet
  •  Implementation
  •  Monitoring
  •  Organization

4.   Risk Management/Insurance

  •  Cash Reserves
  •  Property & Casualty
  •  Life & Disability
  •  Long-Term Care
  •  Assumptions
  •  Educational Material

5.   Spending

6.   Legacy Planning

 

               TABLE 2

Additional Financial Planning Areas

1.   Cash Flow being affected by:

  •  Transportation
  •  Debt
  •  Personal relationship issues
  •  Values

2.   Using trusted professional advisers to:

  •  Implement your plan
  •  Help determine if advanced services of other advisers or a fee financial planner are needed
  •  A thorough Implementation Action checklist

The Options for Receiving Financial Planning Services

Until now, only individuals who could pay a large fee or who had a large sum of money to invest were able to receive a financial plan; others were offered a ‘free financial plan’ and then were sold a product. Frankly, this was the only way financial planners could recoup the value of their time until now. With eFinPLAN, financial planning is available to people at all income levels without a large fee or a promise to invest. For the first time, everyone can have access to innovative comprehensive software.

Up to now, there were four different ways people received financial planning assistance, but now there is an additional online way:

Five Types of Financial Planning Services

  1. Fee-only Financial Planners provide comprehensive financial planning assistance, covering virtually all areas of financial planning. They receive no commissions for products sold, as their only source of revenue is a charge for the financial plan and a charge based on assets. Financial Plan Fee: Ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 or higher for the financial plan—one time or yearly. Asset Charge: .50% to 2.00% on assets (total or assets under management). Some charge by the hour instead of an upfront planning and ongoing investment fee, although this is rarer.
  2. Fee-based Financial Planners provide comprehensive financial planning assistance similar to what fee-only financial planners do. The may receive a fee similar to Fee-only Financial Planners, but they may also receive compensation from insurance and investment products that they provide.
  3. Investment Advisers’ main emphasis is investment management. Some investment advisers may provide full or modular financial planning services. They usually charge a fee on assets under management. They may or may not charge for the financial plan.
  4. Product Providers utilize financial planning software to help analyze the need for the insurance or investment products they wish to sell. They receive commissions for insurance, annuity and investment products sold. Sometimes they do the financial plan for free, or they may charge for it, but they may wave the fee if you buy a product from them.
  5. eFinPLAN is a web-based system designed for consumer use. It provides educational, narrative, and numerical information to help people take control of their financial future. Consumers use their team of trusted professional advisers to implement the financial plan. The cost is less than $100 per year.

The Process of Financial Planning usually has two phases. The first phase is to design a financial plan, or a road map of written plans. This usually involves the following 4 steps.                                                      

Phase 1: Financial Plan Design

  1. Gathering data, including goals.
  2. Analyzing and evaluating financial status.
  3. Developing financial planning alternatives.
  4. Implementing the initial action plan.

After the plan has been established, the second phase includes:

Phase 2: Implement and monitor

  1. Learning about financial matters.
  2. Implementing additional action steps.
  3. Monitoring the progress toward your goals.

This is the 2nd article in a 5-part series about financial planning:

Part 1: Basics of Financial Planning – What is Personal Financial Planning?

Personal Comprehensive Financial Planning: A financial plan serves as an ongoing master plan for your money.  It also serves as a cornerstone for decision making throughout your life.  All of life’s decisions affect our finances; education, home purchases, vacations, and children, and a multitude of choices also have an affect on college planning, retirement, etc.  A financial plan should be changeable so that you can track progress on your goals and you can account for the unexpected.

The Need for Financial Planning: Most people need written and computerized financial plans to increase the likelihood of achieving their goals. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Written goals (along with a tracking system) are much more likely to be obtained
  2. The myriad of complex moving parts of the financial world and endless options demand a program to help people navigate.

These are the reasons we have created eFinPLAN financial planning software for consumers.

Basic Components of Financial Planning

1: Written Goals: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”i.  A plan should contain a set of written goals and the steps to achieve them.  These goals should define your current lifestyle and the one you want to create for the future.

2: Changeable: A financial plan should provide for planned and unplanned contingencies.  It should give you the ability to make changes as your life changes.  Events, such as the birth of a child, purchasing a home or car, or an unexpected bonus or expense, can significantly change your entire plan.

3: A process: Financial planning is a process.  It requires a small initial investment in time to create a plan, and a lifetime of monitoring progress to achieve goals. It also requires self-education in financial matters to stay current.

4: Fitting the pieces together: Finances are complex.  Consider the moving parts of your finances: net worth, future goals, investment planning, risk management, insurance, cash flow, wills, retirement, and college—to name just a few.  A financial plan helps you to become more knowledgeable and to understand the complexities of planning.

5: Personalized: A financial plan should be modified and adapted to your unique needs.  It should not be created with a cookie cutter approach because everyone’s situation is different.

6: Comprehensive:A financial plan should be comprehensive; it should cover most areas of your financial life.

 

Typical Financial Planning Areas

1. Present Financial Condition

  • Net Worth
  • Data Confirmation
  • Spending
  • Cash Flow
  • Debt
  • Taxes

2. Future Goals

  • Retirement
  • College Education
  • Other Goals

3. Investment Planning

  • Risk Assessment
  • Asset Allocation Worksheet

4. Risk Management/Insurance

  • Cash Reserves
  • Property & Casualty
  • Life & Disability
  • Long-Term Care

5. Spending

  • Cash Flow
  • Debt
  • Taxes

6. Legacy Planning

  • Wills
  • End-of-life Issues
  • Trusts

7. Ongoing

  • Implementation
  • Monitoring progress
  • Updating

8.  Appendix

  • Assumptions
  • Educational Material

As you can see, comprehensive financial planning addresses a lot of areas that many people might overlook.

This is the 1st article in a 5-part series about financial planning:

i Antoine de Saint-Exupery

3D Printers, What Will it Mean to Business and Your Investments?

replicatopr

Taking a reflective walk down memory lane about 3D printers, I find that it’s a short walk from my dentist to my laptop.  Several years, ago I had a cap glued onto a molar. It was created from several pictures relayed to a 3D laser that cast a duplicate of the missing top of my tooth from a raw piece of ceramic. This year I had it done again. With increasing frequency I’ve read articles about 3D printers and the amazing things they can do.

What really caught my eye lately is what Jay Leno is up to. No, not the fact that he was retiring from the Tonight Show, but what he was doing with car parts. This is boring to most people but not to me since I’m a car guy. Jay has several pieces of equipment, including a 3D part printer, a 3D scanner, and various computers, so that he can create parts right in his garage from raw blocks of material. I stumbled across the Popular Mechanics article. If you don’t know already, Jay has an amazing collection of cars; some are very rare, such as several steam-powered machines. Finding parts can be hard and it can take forever and cost a lot; even if you find them, they don’t always arrive in great condition. Jay solved this problem by being able to create them from scratch.

A few months ago the Wall Street Journal had an article about printers that could print candy, and Hershey’s was looking into them. I tweeted that the day will arrive in many of our lifetimes when we own food replicators in our home, much as we have Keurig coffee machines today. Previously they were science fantasy first seen on Star Trek’s Next Generation series in 1987 (Klingon using one in the picture).

Last month I walked into my local computer store, MicroCenter, and they had three 3D printers buzzing away creating trinkets and toys from blocks of plastic. For about $1,000 you can buy one and take it home.  You can design something on your computer, such as your invention for a better mouse-trap, or a gift for your children, and before you know it you are watching it being created in front of your eyes. It is quite interesting to view the machine work through the clear plastic printer case.

In the coming years, 3D printers could be as huge and common as personal computers, cell phones, home printers and microwave ovens are today. What this will mean to manufacturing, to the company you work for, and to your investment portfolio, no one knows. But I predict that it will be huge–big in terms of profits, shifting wealth, unemployment, individual investment growth (and losses), and entrepreneurship. Hold on to your rocket Boy Elroy; we will be in for quite a ride when this technology hits main stream. If you are interested to know more, check out the video at Motley Fool titled “The End of ‘Made-in-China’ Era. It is a little bit of hype but well done. Caution–be careful if you are thinking of investing in this industry; picking winners and losers is difficult, just as it was when the dot.com world was white-hot.

Do You Know The Best Ways to Protect Credit and Debit Accounts?

Life is busy, so sometimes people let their guards down when it comes to using credit cards safely. So here are 10 things you should do to help make sure no one steals your credit and debit card information:

  1. Use cash more often for such things as buying fast food and gasoline. Some thieves attach little card readers to gas-pump card terminals.
  2. Cover your hand when entering your PIN in the public credit card terminal.
  3. Cover your card when you remove it from your wallet. Thieves have been known to take pictures of your card.
  4. Use a credit card, not your debit card, for online purchases. Both are equally protected financially for theft, but the theft of a debit card number can cause more hassle, such as bounced checks and late payments.
  5. Be careful; try to use your card only in good establishments.  The only two times credit card information theft has happened in our family were to our children’s debit accounts when they used them on a college campus at a local establishment.
  6. Shred all mail and documents before you throw them away if they have any personal information about you on them. Buy a good $100 price range shredder that can cross-shred cards, computer disks, and several pages of paper at a time.
  7. Balance your checking account every month, and pay off all credit card balances.
  8. Password protect your computer and smart phone in case they are stolen.
  9. Make online purchases at home, on your private password protected internet connection; do not use a public WIFI in places like the coffee shop or library.
  10. Don’t share your personal information with anyone that shouldn’t have it; beware of phone calls and emails that try to obtain your birth date, social security number, and credit card information.

Victim of the Target Data Breach? Here’s What To Do

Millions of Target customers as well as those of several other retailers recently were victims of data breaches over the holidays. If you were one of them, you should know what to do.

  1. If you used plastic at any of them, especially Target, monitor your account daily, login online, to check out if there any unauthorized charges.
  2. Accept the credit monitoring service your card offers you but only if it is a legitimate offer. Be careful for spam emails trolling to collect your personal data. Through various breaches my wife and I have had over the years, we have had the service free for many years, but never an unauthorized use or ID theft.
  3. Notify your bank, tell them what is going on, they may issue you a new card.
  4. Change your personal identification number – PIN.
  5. If you are sure your account has been compromised, you may want to freeze the account for 90 days.
  6. If your credit card information has been stolen, such as at a local retailer or from your purse or wallet, call the police and file a report. This may be necessary to get your money back from your bank.

Now, you are probably wondering; What should I do to protect yourself from credit card information theft in the future? If so, see the next article.

 

Merits of Auto Clubs Roadside Assistance and Maintenance

Auto clubs like AAA, MCA and Better World Club, offer very useful benefits, such as roadside assistance and towing. Many of them today are offering much more, including car repairs.

In addition to clubs, other competitors have entered that market place, including credit-card issuers, insurance companies, car manufacturers, and oil companies. So before you buy, first check to see what benefits your auto insurance company and car manufacturer provide.

What I like about firms like AAA is the convenience during emergency situations. The last time my car broke down, I was in Michigan between Grand Rapids and East Lansing, on a business trip in the middle of nowhere. I had a company car and I am embarrassed to say I ran out of gas. It was very difficult to locate a towing or roadside assistance company, for I was not sure which small town I was near that might have such a firm. Secondly, a bad winter storm had just gone through the previous day, and I was low priority for the towing companies, since most with good-sized fleets were taking care of club customers. It is never convenient to need someone to bring you gas, tow your car to the closest good repair shop, give you a jump-start, or unlock your doors if you locked your keys inside. Club membership can help you avoid disaster on a pleasure or a business trip, and it can of save you many hours of trying to get help (and then perhaps getting it from someone who may not be reliable). Clubs have strict standards, so that added confidence helps a lot.

Auto Clubs offer this peace of mind, which is especially helpful with our 3-car family, with one at college. The mileage readings on our three well maintained vehicles are 298,000, 175,000, and 160,000, combined to more than 600,000 miles. This means a higher possibility of needing roadside assistance. I understand that we are not the exception. Avoiding car payments and owning cars is the way to go for those trying to be financially savvy.

Lastly, the local AAA Club in Columbus Ohio is offering something very intriguing right now for their auto service centers—a year-long discount program for maintenance. I was pretty much impressed with their program. For $100 members can get the following services within a year: 4 oil changes, a 39-point inspection with each oil change, 4 battery and starting/charging system checks, 2 tire rotations with balance, 1 air filter, 1 set of front wiper blades, 1 headlamp replacement, 1 A/C pressure check, and 12 monthly tire pressure checks. This would save the regular person about $300, or the partial do-it-yourselfer and deal finder about $200, I’d guess (probably paying for or exceeding the cost of the membership).  Peace of mind on maintenance and roadside assistance are nice things, especially valuable to those with older cars, lack of family close enough to call for help, or fear of being stranded in a dark place waiting for help to arrive.

Also, rest assured I derived no financial benefit from highlighting these firms, and I don’t prefer them over others. If you are a club or a car repair firm and have an idea for an article and would like a mention, please contact me.

 

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